Monday, May 27, 2013

Solfa Dojo - Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4

I recently wrapped up my Recorder Karate unit with 3rd - 5th grade.  We had a recorder number of Black Belts this year and the students worked very hard. One thing I did this year that I hadn't in previous years was to create a bulletin board like this (obviously taken toward the beginning - I ended up putting a picture of each black belt in the red free space) in addition to announcing the students' names on our morning announcements:
It looked very cute, if a little cluttered, with so many smiling black belt faces adorning it.

The motivation was great and I got to thinking, "What if the students had something motivating to use when learning solfa?"  All my kiddos are eager sight-singers, and many will often show their skills in front of the class, but having a reward-system in place can't hurt right?  I could always use more data and more assessment opportunities also!

So, I created the Solfa Dojo! 

I borrowed the progression of 'belts' from Karate and adapted it for the Kodaly classroom.  The melodies of the "belts" mirror melodic structures from various songs the students already learn as we progress from Mi-So to Mi-So-La and to Do-Mi-So-La.  Vital rhythms for these levels are also included in the "belts".  The melodies use the keys of C, D, F and G so students can sing at higher and lower levels and view the solfa on various places on the staff.

Level 1: 9 melodies using so/mi, quarter note/eighth note pair
Level 2: 9 melodies using mi/so/la, quarter note/quarter rest/eighth note pair
Level 3: 9 melodies using do/mi/so/la, half note/quarter note/quarter rest/eighth note pair
Level 4 (updated 07/30): 9 melodies using do/re/mi/so/la, half note/quarter  note/quarter rest/eighth note pair 

Students are assessed using the following rubric (which you can go over with the students and it is also included in the music you can send home for them to practice).  Each "song" has 8 total beats.   You can address time signature, measures, bar lines, and double bar lines also.

Students also receive and overview of which concepts are used in each level and a reminder about what steps to use when singing:

You can use the materials in a variety of ways (and feel free to adapt what you need to for your own students' needs): 

1. Individual sight-reading: Use this progressive assessment alongside your traditional Mi/So, Mi/So/La, or Do/Mi/So/La lessons (check out the links to the right for more information).  You can use it as you progress through different keys or songs.  During part of the lesson, while students are engaged in center activities, etc, call students over to your desk and have them follow the sight-reading steps (don’t allow them prior practice time).

2.  Individual or Small Group Study: Equip each student (or small groups of students – 3 to 4) with a set of the songs.   You can print these out on cardstock, laminate or put in page pprotectors, and clasp with binder rings or store in a binder.
Red Belt Example Level 3
Students can either work alone in their groups, with a partner, or with the entire group to sing through the songs.  Have a melodic instrument ready so they can play the starting pitches since these change.   You can call groups or individual students to sing for you to “pass off” a belt.  You can even send home music for the students to practice:
Example of Level 2 Printable Music

3.     Whole-class Study: You can project the slides for the class to sing (they can compete against other classes in their grade level).  Have them follow the sight-reading steps.  If they score high enough, you can select a student to color the belt on their class tracking sheet.  If not, they can earn a chance to perform again later.

Included in each download are printable book-mark sized blank "belts".  I suggest having two per each student, one in a binder where you record which level they earn (highlight or check off each belt) and one on a bulletin board that the student can color in (if they color, you don't have to worry about finding time to do it yourself).  If you are tracking their progress as a class, you can put their homeroom teacher's name on the tracking sheet instead.

 For most students, the progression on the bulletin board will be enough.
However, some more ideas for rewards are:
1. Class with the most black belts (or class that first reaches the black belt level if you are assessing the class as a whole) earns a music game day (students can play favorite music games).
2. Each students who earns a black belt gets a certificate, their name on the announcements, and their picture on the bulletin board.

3. When the unit is over, place all the black belt names in a drawing, and the "winners" (you can select how many you want) can receive music prizes (you can decided what those are - for example, these cute, but durable inflatable mics):

WHAT ABOUT OLDER STUDENTS?  I'm working on six more levels that will be appropriate from late 2nd through 5th grade - coming soon :)


  1. Thank you for sharing! Looking forward to your other levels. My recorder karate is very built in and my kids will want something different - all summer to think of something!

  2. Awesome!!!! THANK YOU!!! Could you pretty please explain the red and blue houses under your Solfege??? Why some are red and one is blue? Thanks a bunch!

  3. Of course - Do (although I sometimes color the house white because "Do" is the "President of Music Street" - he decides where the others live), Mi, and So are red because they "copycat" (they will all live on lines or spaces) and La is blue because it doesn't copycat Do Mi So.

    This helps later when the students are learning Re. La is pretty easy for them to identify (he's the highest) but Re can get mixed up with Do and Mi. By realizing that Re lives on a line while the Do and Mi live on a space (the opposite is true also) the students are more successful when sight-singing.

  4. Hi Emily,

    I just wrote you on TpT. I was wondering if you would consider sending me these as the original Ppt slides? It would really help me out! :)

    - Ashley

  5. Hi Emily. Wow, this looks great! I've just moved to a performing arts specialist teacher role after 9 years on a classroom, and am teaching myself a lot of musicianship, as well as trying to gain my Kodaly Certificate. Sight singing is an issue for me, so these will be really helpful for my own musical development. Then once I've gained confidence I'll feel more at ease in setting high expectations for my students. Thanks a heap. Jaki (from Down Under)